The Magic’s problems in the last few weeks can be summed up in one word: turnovers. Turnovers cost the Magic in their last three losses (and offensive rebounding cost them the one before that). It really is a difficult problem to explain. But, as I wrote last week, it is a persistent problem throughout the season.
It ties in very closely with another issue Stan Van Gundy has been trying to address. As Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported, Stan Van Gundy is trying to get his two primary ballhandlers, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, going. He knows, as everyone knows, when those two are going the Magic are that much tougher to beat.
It was exactly the effort Orlando got in the first half of Monday’s game from Nelson and Turkoglu on Monday night in Los Angeles and what the team did not get in the second half as the ball movement stopped and Orlando struggled to keep up with a fiery Lakers squad.
Van Gundy said after Monday’s game he believed the Magic did a lot of good Monday night. But the turnovers and the lack of ball movement offensively ended chances at the team’s second sweep of the Lakers in three years.
Nelson struggled with foul trouble throughout the first half, but he still scored 13 points and dished out 8 assists in 30 minutes while shooting 6 for 10 from the floor and a perfect 5 for 5 from within 10 feet, according to HoopData. Turkoglu was not bad either with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting. Most of that came in the first half though before Turkoglu went into stand-and-watch, chuck-it-up mode.
There were good things as those two stat lines suggest. When they play well, the Magic are pretty difficult to beat. The problem is, much to many people’s chagrin, is neither of those two guys are the consistent scorers and playmakers the team needs them to be.
Van Gundy is right to try to find a way to keep the two involved. Throughout this road trip they have been very active in the gameplans.
Nelson is averaging 19.3 points per game and 5.8 assists per game while shooting a 61.8 percent effective field goal percentage. Nelson has shot better than 50 percent in three of the four games on the trip. He has taken 18 shots within 10 feet according to HoopData — an average of 4.5 attempts per game, a number above his average of 4.0 per game.
Turkoglu too has seen a spike in production, averaging 15.5 points per game and a 68.3 percent effective field goal percentage.
Even though the team is 2-2, the play from Nelson and Turkoglu has been encouraging. Of course, what has not is their turnovers. That has been up and down and that has led to the mixed results so far on the road trip. Nelson is averaging 3.0 turnovers per game on this trip and nine of his 12 turnovers have come in the team’s two losses.
Turkoglu has not turned the ball over in the last two games, but has five total turnovers on the trip. His lack of turnovers is good, but also suggests he may not be getting the ball enough. His usage rate the last two games might suggest that — 15.6 percent against Phoenix and 13.0 percent against the Lakers after posting a 21.9 percent rate against Golden State according to HoopData.
For Nelson it is not necessarily about scoring more. Orlando is 5-3 in games where Nelson scores 20 or more points. More interestingly, Orlando is just 25-17 in games where Nelson has five or more assists.
I draw a few things from these numbers. Clearly, Orlando has a winning record when Nelson is attacking and active. But more puzzling Nelson, who is often criticized for being a scoring point guard, has only scored 20 points in eight games this season. In those eight games, the Magic are averaging an offensive rating of 113.1. Their season average is 105.9.
That is a significant difference (a 6.8 percent increase over the season average). Pushing defense aside, the offense is clearly much better when Nelson is scoring.
Consistency is the buzz word for the team. That must be what Orlando gets from Nelson.
From Turkoglu, it is hard to figure what the Magic need. There is no one statistic that Turkoglu can specifically do that correlates to Orlando wins like with Nelson. Really, for Turkoglu, it is about staying efficient with his shot selection, keeping the ball moving and being aggressive — he only has four shots within 10 feeton this road trip according to HoopData.
Van Gundy is right though. These two players are important to the team. Most nights, Orlando will get a stellar performance from Dwight Howard. Most nights, Jason Richardson is good for 15-18 points on any given night. But he is not the type of attacking player that Nelson and Turkoglu can be.
Orlando needs to get one of those two going to be successful.